When Do We Teach Young Children the Art of Diplomacy?


Shelley took her three-year-old daughter, Brianna to a Target store to shop for new clothes for daycare. As they filed in line behind another store patron to pay for their goods, Brianna noticed the man in front of them. His appearance was the epitome of a Harley biker. Brianna immediately noticed that the man was smoking in the store. She complained out loud, "Mom, that man is smoking! That's yucky!" Shelley's instincts were to move, but several customers had queued up behind her. Brianna then did a commentary of the man's appearance. "Ooh, Mom! He's got long hair in a pony-tail! And tatoos! That's disgusting! And he's wearing an earring -- with a feather in it! Ooh, yuck!" Shelley tried to signal to her daughter to be quiet, to distract her -- anything, but Brianna was oblivious. By this time, Shelley was shaking in her jeans. The cashier had offered the man an ashtray to put out his cigarette. He turned around and revealed the embarrassed look on his little girl's face and told me not to worry because she did not like his appearance either.

Shelley gave Brianna a lesson on diplomacy once they got in the car to go home. She explained that some people are not as nice as that man in the store -- that they would take a strong offense to her critique. This could put them in danger. Shelley finished her lesson with the old addage, "If you do not have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Such an old addage! I think we forget that sometimes.

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